Skip to main content

Canine Unit

MSP canine German Shepherd laying in grass.

Canine Unit


The Canine Unit was officially established in 1960 by Tpr. Richard Abbott and "Jocko." After the first year, the department noted the team's effectiveness and added four more teams. 


Currently, the department has 40 canine teams strategically placed throughout the state whose handlers answer calls for service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The unit handles over 7,000 requests for services annually, making it one of the largest and busiest in the country.

Most of the unit's canines are German Shepherds due to the breed's ability to handle the various functions and stress with intelligent problem-solving abilities and a high work drive.


All training is conducted in-house by members of the Canine Unit. All handlers and canines are required to complete an intensive 14-week basic canine school. Each team is trained in tracking, building search, area search, property search, obedience, aggression, and narcotics detection. 

  • Tracking:  MSP canines are trained to follow human scent. If it is known where a wanted or missing person walked, the canine can be placed on this track and will generally follow it. If it is not known where a wanted or missing person walked, the canine can search an area and will follow any track found that leads out of the area.
  • Building Search: When a wanted person is believed to be in a building, a police canine can search the building by direct, free-floating and airborne human scents.
  • Area Search: An area search permits the canine to search an area for airborne scent when no track can be established. This type of search can be used for missing or lost persons as well as fugitives where a track is not practical because of contamination or age.
  • Property Search: MSP canines are trained to search for any article with human scent on it. They do not have to smell the person who handled the article before searching for it.
  • Obedience: MSP canines are trained in obedience, learning basic commands like "sit, stay, down and come." 
  • Aggression: The MSP's tracking canines are taught to defend themselves and their handlers. However, canines are only used for personal defense in situations where the likelihood of serious injury to the officer or another person is imminent.
  • Narcotics Detection: Some of the canines are trained to located five common narcotics odors in several environments, such as buildings, vehicles, packages, and other objects.


The MSP's canines retire to their handler's or another loving person's home after working eight years.

Donations to the MSP Canine Unit:

Monetary donations can be made to the MSP Canine Unit. Donations are used to buy protective equipment for canines and handlers and are also used on occasion toward the purchase of new canines. If you wish to make a donation, please send a check made payable to the Michigan State Police Canine Unit, 2615 Port Lansing Road, Lansing MI 48906.